Monday, February 20, 2017

Musings: Behind the Scenes of my Vantage Point

This post was inspired by Light... read on to find out more. 

Maple cathedral, Saint Edward State Park. Lainey Piland photo

There's always some self-doubt and second guessing involved. The trees begin leaning in at the right angles, the ravine sweeps and curves in that familiar way. Click, click. I squint at the screen of my camera and frown. Nope, this isn't it. I follow the trail another hundred feet or so, curve around a corner and stand on my tiptoes to aim my lens over a thicket of salmonberry brambles that grow taller and make this endeavor slightly more difficult with each succeeding year. Click, click. Again, I look at the camera screen and this time everything is perfect: the maple trees arching overhead, sheltering the salmonberry and devil's club-filled ravine below, where the trickling seasonal stream meanders through, unseen.

Of all the trails, nature preserves, and parks I've wandered and photographed, this right here is my favorite vantage point: two square feet of muddy trail clinging to the hillside above the ravine on the South Canyon Trail in Saint Edward State Park. From this vantage point, one has the perfect view of the place I like to call the Maple Cathedral.

Craning to look above the salmonberry, you feel as though you've flung open the heavy doors of some high and holy place: a cathedral formed by bigleaf maples leaning from their anchors on the steep slope, trunks and branches curved to form a vaulted ceiling above the lush ravine far below. Birdsong fills the canopy and echoes through the void in a song more melodious than could be produced by any church choir or pipe organ. It's a view that makes you say "Oh" as you stand in awe, feeling both gloriously empty and lavishly full at the same time. You draw a breath as though it's the first one to ever fill your lungs. Heaven.

I've visited this place many times, in all seasons, and still when I hit those magic coordinates I feel the same overwhelming reaction. The photo above was captured on April 2nd of last year, and shows my Maple Cathedral in the full glow of late afternoon. Although the maples were still bare from the winter and hadn't leafed out yet, the ravine below was filled with salmonberry resplendent in the vivid green leaves of spring, and they caught the afternoon light in a spectacular way.

It can be challenging to take good photographs in the forest on sunny days such as this one, where there is a harsh contrast between light and shadow. Your pictures end up looking like stripes of black shadow interspersed with stripes of glaring green foliage or washed-out tree bark. I was fortunate to arrive at my favorite vantage point during a time when the light was more hospitable and offered a softer, glowing image. It was a rewarding moment to capture.

This Nature Nerd is not a photographer, but loves to tote her hefty Nikon D5000 on all of her adventures in the outdoors to capture some of the beautiful, breathtaking, or interesting sights that exist in nature and share them with others here on the blog. Earlier photos on the blog were all taken with my iPhone 4, but a few years ago I was gifted with the Nikon, and it has been my beloved companion (okay, along with my husband...) on the majority of my adventures. But I know that a digital SLR does not a photographer make, so I'm always shooting with humility and am pleasantly surprised when I can come away with photos like the one above that are actually representative of the scene I witnessed in person. Of course, having a naturally photogenic subject such as my favorite vantage point certainly helps in those endeavors!

So now let's get back to the inspiration for this post. Recently I learned about the Vantage Point project, where photographers share a photo from a special vantage point and the story behind it. The project was created by Light, a company that makes the most intriguing camera I've ever seen. Take a look at the gallery - there are photos from all over the world! I'm glad to contribute a photo from my favorite little corner of the planet. And while you're at it... click on over to the Light website and take a gander at their cutting-edge Light L16 camera that utilizes folded optics technology to create DSLR-quality photos in a small, streamlined design. Look at all those lenses - how cool is that?! With its high-quality images and compact design, this looks like an ideal camera for a nature-wandering blogger who also loves to take photos! Hmmm...

A rare shot of the Nature Nerd behind the scenes. On a rainy hike to Blue Lake, with my beloved camera stuffed under my jacket in an attempt to keep it dry.

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